Tackling an overgrown plot

Taking on a new plot can be daunting, especially if it’s been neglected. When it comes to clearing the first thing to do is consider the type of vegetation. If there are brambles or other woody material, cut as close to the ground as possible. Ideally, take the cut material to a green recycling facility. If that’s not possible consider burning, but you must follow YACIO’s guidance on bonfires.

Once the woodiest growth is cleared, the best option is to gradually start digging out weeds. Use a fork, unless there are woody stumps where a spade will be necessary. Tease out carefully making sure roots as well as foliage are removed. This is especially important where perennial weeds are present such as couch grass, docks, bindweed, buttercups, and dandelions (this list is not exclusive – other weeds are available!). Where there are perennial weeds do not use a rotavator. This will chop roots into tiny pieces from which most perennial weeds, especially couch grass and bindweed, will quickly sprout new top growth. Be methodical. Start in one place and gradually extend over a wider area. Do not burn weeds and their roots. Non-perennial weeds can be composted while most perennials, if stacked with some soil and covered to exclude light for at least a year, will also rot down to a compost-like material.

Should clearing a plot by hand seem too time-consuming another option is to cover the ground with light excluding material. This will only work if left in place for a number of months during the growing season (covering in the winter will have little affect). One of the best materials to use is thick black plastic. Another option is cardboard but this must be weighed down. Any material used must exclude as much light as possible. The bigger the sheet the better: small sheets must be well overlapped. Whichever type of covering is used it can only remain in place for six months or so. Another alternative is to use herbicides. This is not an approach YACIO recommends, but if you do resort to a weed killer it must be one approved for amateur use and applied carefully to avoid damage to boundary vegetation or neighbouring plots.